SALEM, Ohio – A half-dozen choir members huddled in the cellar of the Oak Chapel United Methodist Church near Wooster, unsure of what was happening outside.
Other parishioners, still on their way to practice at the country church, turned and headed for home after seeing trees fall, electrical wires arc. One watched the sky turn green.
“We’re crazy, not stupid,” said Susan Mykrantz, a Farm and Dairy correspondent from Wooster.
Mykrantz was one of those huddled in the church as a tornado first touched down, then swept overhead around 7 p.m. Nov. 12, leaving destruction in its path across Wayne County.
The storm was rated an F2 by the National Weather Service, with winds between 110 and 130 mph.
There were no serious injuries or fatalities from the storm.
“But it sure shook the bejeebers out of a lot of people,” Mykrantz said.
Moved quickly. The storm popped up quickly and pushed across Ohio as warm and cold fronts collided, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
The fronts spawned three tornadoes across the country, including two in northeastern Ohio.
In Wooster, more than three dozen houses and a dozen businesses were moderately to severely damaged by the twister, estimated 50-125 yards wide. It cut a path 12 miles long.
Initial damage estimates exceed $15 million.
Stark County. An F1 tornado in Lexington Township, in northeastern Stark County, damaged a school and several residences.
The tornado had winds measured at 75-100 mph. It cut a path three to five miles long and 25-50 yards wide, according to weather service reports.
“That damage was mostly in rural areas, mainly trees and roofs,” said Gary Garnet, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Dangerous winds. Strong winds, some reaching hurricane strength, blew across parts of the northeastern United States, creating dangerous driving conditions and toppling trees and power lines, according to National Weather Service reports.
Serious flash flooding occurred in isolated areas in southern Ohio and West Virginia.
Trees and power lines were also reported down in most northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania counties.
Nearly 400,000 customers were without power in Ohio, according to the weather service.
Roof gone. When Mykrantz returned home, she found the north side of the roof on a machinery shed belonging to her father, Tom, was gone.
The metal sheeting blew through a line of trees, toward the church where Mykrantz weathered the storm, and into nearby fields.
None of the equipment or hay inside the shed was damaged.
Neighborhood. In her neighborhood, west of Wooster, parts of some homes had been torn off and chimneys tumbled. One house was picked up off its foundation and moved.
Several trees described as “old” and “huge” were uprooted.
Field corn in a field across from the church was completely laid over.
It looks like the combines already did their work, but the entire crop is still in the field, according to Mykrantz.
Her uncle, Harry Mykrantz, owns the fields but rents them to other farmers.
In a nearby field, pieces of lumber, carried by the storm and then dropped, stand post-straight in the ground.
In Wooster, the storm tossed snowplows at the engineer’s office and tore roofs off buildings at Wooster Motorways, according to Mykrantz.
One drainage supplier had pipe blow “from here to kingdom come,” she said.
Cleaning up. Cleanup seems to be going well, Mykrantz said, noting neighbors have been helping “as long and as hard as they could.”
A nearby farmer brought a front-end loader to the church to push a playset off the sidewalk so churchgoers could get into the building Sunday.
Somebody watching. Mykrantz thinks there was something watching over the Rubbermaid factory in Wooster, where seven were taken to the hospital with minor injuries after portions of the building’s roof were torn off.
“I tell you, the timing is uncanny,” Mykrantz said. “There was somebody watching.”
At church. Back at the church, the parishioners emerged to check the damages.
The playset had been blown into a fence made of 1-inch metal tubing. Parts of that fence were twisted beyond repair.
The steeple still stood and only one window was broken.
The church’s namesake, a towering 200-year-old oak tree, stood guard during the storm.
Even without the practice, the choir stood up Sunday morning and sang their hearts out.
Their message? The beauty of the earth.
“It’s fitting, to go through something like that and to suffer no more damage than we did.
“It is pretty beautiful, even though it looks like a disaster right now,” Mykrantz said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!